Fever for work

On 3 October 1888, Van Gogh writes to Paul Gauguin: ‘I have an extraordinary fever for work these days, at present I’m grappling with a landscape with blue sky above an immense green, purple, yellow vine with black and orange shoots. Little figures of ladies with red sunshades, little figures of grape-pickers with their cart further liven it up’.

Blood and tears

He paints The green vineyard in a single day in a vineyard near Montmajour, not far from Arles. Nature has been ‘exceptionally beautiful’ for a while and he wants to waste no time capturing it. His ‘study of the vineyards’ costs him a great deal of effort, as he later tells Theo: ‘I sweated blood and tears over it – but I have it’.

Unprecedented vitality

Van Gogh depicts the female figures and grape pickers in quick, varied brushstrokes under a bright blue sky with the lilac silhouette of Arles and orange roofs of the farms on the horizon. The paint is applied in a thick impasto, particularly in the foreground. The purple, red, yellow, light blue and orange touches of paint dance among the greenery and lend the work an unprecedented vitality.